Join the queue
The New Nokia marketing machine just loves its Twitter. It’s forever fishing for compliments and posting messages of consumer love for its products. Earlier this week it posted some solicitous pap about the new PureView 808 camera phone having two things in common with professional celebrity Kim Kardashian (SEO: Check!), and invited followers to guess what they might be. It seemed pretty clear to the Informer; they’re both a bit on the lumpy side, and they’re both essentially pointless.
Far more interesting, the Informer was thinking when Stephen Elop unveiled the PureView at MWC last month, would have been some evidence of a tablet strategy. This week a tiny snippet of interview material from a Finnish magazine called Kauppalehti Optio was taken by many news outlets to constitute some such evidence, with Nokia design chief Marko Ahtisaari quoted as saying he is spending a good portion of his time working on a Nokia Windows tablet.
Based on the quality of the Lumia 800, the Informer would very much like to see such a device in the market, although surely the key metric by which its desirability would have to be judged is the extent to which people would be prepared to stand outside retail outlets through the night in a bid to be among the first to get their hands on it.
This has become the norm for Apple product launches, and so it was this week, just around the corner from Informer Towers, at the Apple Store on London’s Regent Street. In fact there were two queues of diehard brand loyalists mingling, with another bunch of lonely weirdos waiting overnight to buy some new plimsolls from NikeTown.
The folks at London PR agency Dynamo like to get up early to quiz the queue constituents about why they’re queuing and provide an exit poll. This week they announced that the queue, with 397 people in it at 07.58, was significantly smaller than that for the iPad 2, which drew 632 people.
There are some great stats here. The Informer’s favourite is that, while 54 per cent of people said they had queued just “to be there” (which is a similar to the reason many people give for attempting to climb Mount Everest), a substantial number – 28 per cent – said they didn’t know why they’d queued. Presumably they’d spent the last few days inexplicably and obsessively fashioning iPad shapes out of mashed potato and shaving foam.
The other interesting figure was that, while 61 per cent of respondents said they were motivated to buy the new iPad because of its retina display, 12 per cent said they wanted it because it had “4G”. The fact that there are no LTE networks in the UK apparently didn’t bother them.
The Informer’s own extrapolation suggests the people in the sneaker queue are more grounded and honest. He doubts that any of those youths were under the impression that their new shoes would make them run faster, or that they would deny their motivation was simply to look a bit cooler in front of their peers.
But perhaps there will be LTE in the UK sooner than we might have thought. Local regulator Ofcom has accepted an application from Everything Everywhere to refarm a portion of its 1800MHz spectrum to be used for LTE. Ofcom said the move would not distort competition and could benefit consumers, especially in rural areas. The rest of the UK ops have got four weeks to respond to the Ofcom decision.
Let’s not forget about UK Broadband, though, which has pledged to launch a TD-LTE service in May this year.
In other LTE/spectrum news, Kenyan operator Safaricom has threatened to pull out of a project to build an LTE network in collaboration with its domestic competitors if the market regulator insists that the network runs in the 2.6GHz band. Safaricom wants to use 700MHz spectrum in a bid to save deployment costs. It’s my way or the highway, the firm’s corporate affairs director Nzioka Waita told the African Business Daily.
Over in Italy, Ericsson has scored an LTE deal with 3 Italia that will see the carrier launch the new technology before the end of the year. The deal will also see 3’s HSPA network upgraded, by the end of this month, to support theoretical highs of 42Mbps. Ericsson spread its services wings a little further this week, with the acquisition of the broadcast services division of Technicolor €19m.
3’s competitor Telecom Italia is among a group of leading international operators that could find themselves under investigation for collusion by the European Commission, meanwhile. Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, TI and Telefónica. There were reports that the alleged collusion began in 2010, with GSMA confirming that it had received correspondence from the Directorate General for Competition.
The suggestion is that the ops were motivated by the threats from OTT players. Perhaps they should look to Sony to solve their problem, as the firm is one of the only “credible alternatives” to the dominance of Apple, at least according to Pierre Perron, head of Sony Mobile in the UK and Ireland.
Perron told Telecoms.com that “who owns the living room will win the war” and that the future of success in the smartphone space will be dependent on the integration of that smartphone with a coherent experience across television, PC, tablet and gaming devices
Sony has end to end capabilities that are unmatched, Perron said, quoting outgoing group president Howard Stringer’s assertion that the firm’s footprint allows it to do everything from producing a mobile phone to winning an Oscar for its film content.
The difference between Sony and Apple, he said, is that Sony is happy to work with the operator community to help it maintain relevance in the value chain. This, of course, owes much to Sony’s dependence on operators’ retail channels as a means to sell handsets to consumers. In the UK, Vodafone has decided not to range the firm’s new Xperia product, although the rest of the carriers are backing them. Read more of the interview here.
Mobile financial services is big news at the moment, and this week was no different, with a flurry of relevant announcements. The Digital arm of Telefónica demonstrated its commitment to the mobile payments space on Thursday, announcing investment in, and a strategic agreement with, m-payment firm Boku.
The move is set against the background of Telefónica’s plans to introduce an m-wallet serviceand the carrier has labelled the investment in Boku as a “significant development”. The partnership opens up access for Boku to Telefónica’s global footprint of 25 markets and 300 million customers. In return, Telefónica gets access to Boku’s network of merchants, specialist knowledge in mobile payments, and carrier billing functionality for virtual goods.
“Payments are going mobile and we want to be at the forefront of this trend,” said Matthew Key, chairman and CEO of Telefónica Digital.
As Telefónica was getting stuck in, Nokia was getting the hell out. The firm announced this week that it is to withdraw from the mobile financial services space as it has been judged non-core. Initially the news related to services that Nokia has been running in India. But it emerged that the decision relates to the group’s wider MFS strategy.
“Things have changed for us,” said Mark Durrant, comms director at Nokia. “We’ve renewed our corporate strategy over the last 12 months or so and that, combined with the business environment we find ourselves in, has meant that the mobile money services would not be core to differentiating our products in the future. We certainly see the value of being able to facilitate mobile payments, but the need for us as Nokia to be driving a service really wasn’t core.”
Later in the week Paypal announced a mobile payment solution aimed at small businesses. The solution, called PayPal Here, which resembles Square, allows businesses to accept payments by swiping cards with a fully encrypted thumb-sized card reader, use a phone camera to scan and process cards and cheques and also allows businesses to invoice directly from the PayPal mobile app.
According to David Marcus, vice president of mobile at the firm, the solution’s key differentiator is that it comes from a trusted brand in the online payments industry with more than 100 million customers around the globe. The service is available in the US, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong. It will open to all other merchants in those countries next month, and PayPal said it will announce the availability of the solution in more countries soon.
The eBay subsidiary recently also unveiled a newly re-designed and re-architected digital wallet at US arts and digital festival SXSW, which it will start to roll out from spring this year.
Finally this week, down-but-not-quite-out US wholesale player LightSquared has hired a celebrity lawyer to try and overturn the FCC’s decision not to let it launch service. Theodore Olsen represented George W Bush in the Supreme Court case against Al Gore and is now onside at LightSquared, presumably not on a no-win-no-fee basis. He started his attack with some long words, calling the FCC “egregious” and adding: “On the face of things, it looks to me like the government has acted arbitrarily after inducing the expenditure of an enormous number of resources,” a statement which probably earned him thousands of dollars.